2011 Top Story No. 8: Horton Avenue flood victims get federal funds

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Horton Avenue flood victim turned community activist Linda Hobson (right) and her fellow flood victims during a press conference last summer.

The News-Review will be counting down its top 10 biggest stories of the year. Coming in at number 8 is Horton Avenue residents get $3.6 million grant.

The story of the year in 2010 was the devastating March 29, 2010, flood that put the Horton Avenue neighborhood north of Route 58 under several feet of water. Flood damage in several houses on the block made them unlivable.

The path that led to those flood victims finally getting some relief was one of the stories of the year in 2011.

Initially, it appeared that attempts to help the Horton Avenue residents, some of whom are still homeless and living with friends or relatives, would be for naught, as attempts to gain funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state Office of Emergency Management were falling short.

Local officials initially were told the storm didn’t cause enough damage to qualify for relief. They then set about to try to link the damage from this storm to that of other storms in the Northeast.

Several of the affected homeowners even filed a lawsuit against Riverhead Town and Suffolk County, claiming both were negligent in their handling of drainage in this area.

But at the end of July 2011, word came that federal aid was on the way for Horton Avenue.

A $3.6 million hazard mitigation grant was awarded by FEMA to provide relief to the Horton Avenue residents who’d lost their houses.

“This is a statement about the value of persistence,” Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) said at the time.

The grant will allow officials to purchase the 13 affected homes in the flood location at pre-flood market value, then demolish them and use the land for drainage measures.

The homeowners would then be able to use that money to buy or rent homes elsewhere.

The county also has been working with the Long Island Housing Partnership on an affordable housing development in the Horton Avenue area that could benefit some Horton Avenue flood victims.

The county also passed a law giving residents who are victims of natural disaster a preference in the county’s affordable housing program.

[email protected]